Two aspiring young sailors from the North East region have been handed a huge boost to their on-the-water ambitions thanks to a partnership between the John Merricks Sailing Trust and the RYA's OnBoard scheme.  

Optimist sailor Erin Tinkler and windsurfer Rudy McWilliams are among 11 promising youngsters from across the UK who have been awarded exclusive use of their own boat or board for the next two years.

Twelve-year-old Optimist sailor Erin Tinkler from Stockton-on-Tees, a member of Scaling Dam Sailing Club in north Yorkshire, was chosen in recognition of her enthusiasm and commitment, and after successfully competing in the RYA North Zone Championships in September.  

Erin was previously sailing a much-loved old Optimist dinghy originally owned by her sailing hero, Rio Olympian Ben Saxton, but was desperate to upgrade so she could sail faster and improve her results at big events. She has been training hard over winter as part of the RYA North Zone Squad and loves her new boat.

"I am really excited about getting into zone squad and buzzing for the training because I think it will improve my sailing," she said. "I love my old Optimist but it is 22 years old and slow against the other boats. I've sailed the new one and think it's really amazing I've got it - it's really fast!"  

Dad Mark said: "Erin has seen a big improvement in her results since getting the boat. It's had a tremendous effect on her performance and she's very much enjoying sailing it. Over the last two years Erin's enthusiasm for sailing has grown exponentially to the point that she is now fanatical about her sailing and specifically Optimist racing. She loves heavy weather and the only time we argue over sailing is when I say it is too windy for any sailing at the club!"  

Matt Jackson, Youth & Junior Coordinator at Scaling Dam Sailing Club, said Erin had a "genuine love of sailing", adding: "Erin has shown increasing enthusiasm for racing and I expect we will see great things with the right kit."  

RYA OnBoard gives young people aged 8 to 18 the opportunity to get on the water at low cost, and the John Merricks Sailing Trust, set up in memory of 1996 Olympic silver medallist John Merricks, supports young sailors and youth sailing organisations. Since 2012 the two organisations have partnered to donate high-quality junior racing dinghies and windsurfing boards to young sailors who may not ordinarily have had the opportunity or financial backing to achieve their goals. Recipients get two years’ exclusive use of their boat/board before it goes to their club for other young sailors to continue benefitting from it in the future.

Barton-on-Humber windsurfer Rudy McWilliams, of North Lincolnshire and Humberside Sailing Club, also aged 12, was awarded a board and sail under the scheme, and hopes to develop his racing skills to gain selection for RYA Zone Squad training in 2018. Rudy was previously borrowing sailing club equipment and is looking forward to now competing more effectively with his own kit.

He said: "I was really happy to be chosen for the John Merricks Sailing Trust award because now I don't have to worry about what board or sail I'm using. I have made lots of friends through my windsurfing and I love the outdoor side to the sport. My goal is to work really hard to improve next year."  

Richard Bowles, Training Officer at North Lincolnshire and Humberside Sailing Club, said Rudy joined the club's OnBoard windsurfing classes in spring 2015 and showed enthusiasm from the beginning: "He listened very carefully to what the instructors were asking of him and gave it his best effort with an 'I will do this' approach."  

He added that Rudy had continued training and competing with great determination, even through winter, and that the John Merricks Sailing Trust award would be a major boost in helping him to pursue his goals on the water.  

Rudy's mum Sarah said: "We were just overwhelmed to be selected, it came as such a surprise. We've been members of the club over two years now and they've been so supportive. Rudy really loves windsurfing and gets a lot of pleasure from being on the water, and I get involved in the catering and helping out, so I enjoy it too. It's a great club and you're made so very welcome, it's a real community."  

RYA OnBoard Operations Officer Hannah Cockle said: “We’re delighted to have once again teamed up the JMST to be able to help these ambitious youngsters to progress in the sport. They’ve all shown such enthusiasm and commitment and having the highest quality equipment will really make a difference."